It’s always surprising how quickly March comes around; after weeks of seemingly endless cold weather and grey skies there is a welcome change as days start to lengthen.
When the sun appears it is now strong enough to warm the soil and encourage plants back into growth.
Attention can turn to spring displays for window boxes – or to cheer up a corner of the garden. Heathers can be used as a stop gap until late spring; they have a profusion of small flowers in various colours lasting several months, and if well cared for the plants should survive for a number of years, providing winter interest. Heathers need soil to be acid or neutral – especially Calluna vulgaris; ericaceous compost can be purchased at garden centres (try to avoid peat based ones). Some Heathers are lime tolerant such as Erica carnea; it produces tiny pink flowers from January to April. Erica darleyensis blooms from November round to April and has white flowers with a blush of pink.
The second half of March can be dry and warm but periods of cold weather are still possible. Protect tender plants with fleece or a cloche if night time temperatures fall.
Planting of trees and shrubs need to be completed this month. Start feeding plants as they resume growth; well-rotted manure or compost is the best way for shrubs/trees – it also helps improve soil condition. The garden centre will have a range of compost and soil conditioners (look for organic products) but this can be expensive; and so if you don’t have a compost heap perhaps now is the time to start one!
Planning for the vegetable plot should be underway – clear over wintering crops (cabbage, leeks, celeriac) to free up space for new season’s plantings; the first sowing of beetroot, early potatoes, carrots and radishes can be started, and covered with garden fleece if temperatures drop.
Early spring shrubs to enjoy are yellow flowered Forsythia; also Magnolia stellata with its profusion of white perfumed flowers – although seasonal winds often damage or blow away the delicate petals. Helleborus atrorubens is an attractive, compact plant with deep purple blooms; a rarity and worth introducing into the garden or window box.
British Summer Time returns on 26th March. It will then feel more like spring – with longer days allowing time for the increasing workload in the garden!